Minors are often held in detention what is officially not allowed. Their age is often changed by the authorities to make them older.
I am younger than 18 and without my parents, what happens to me?
A minor is a child from 0-17 years. An unaccompanied minor is a child up to 17 years who is travelling alone – meaning not accompanied by his/her mother or father. Unaccompanied minors are excluded from the readmission program and are not in danger to be deported!
Upon arrival you will usually be registered by the First Reception Service in the closed camp. You have to declare your name, nationality and age. It is crucial to say here if you are travelling alone.
If the authorities doubt your age, according to the law, they can use medical methods to determine if you are younger than 18 or older. In such a case, you should be informed, in a language you understand, about the possibility to assess the age with a medical examination, as well as the method that will be used, the possible consequences of the result or of your refusal to undertake a medical examination. If the medical examination does not clearly with certainty that someone is an adult, he/she has to be treated as a minor.
You can appeal against the result of an age-assessment before the First Reception Service. You can also appeal before the administrative court against it with the help of a lawyer. If you have documents, proving your young age (such as your original passport or birth certificates, validated by your countries’ ministry or embassy), you can hand them to the authorities, the First Reception Service or (in case you apply for asylum or for family reunification) to the Asylum Service.
You should be then placed in a part of the camp where only minors are held and soonest possible you should be transferred to an adequate open shelter. As long as you are detained you are in so called “protective custody”.
Attention! Minors should not be detained! Only in exceptional cases they can be detained according to the law. However, in practice, minors are routinely detained in Greece in “protective custody”. If you are a registered unaccompanied minor, you might be detained until a place is found in a reception centre for unaccompanied minors, where you will be referred. This means practically that you might stay longer in detention than your adult or accompanied friends. Currently, minors have stayed in average 1-3 months in detention after arrival, awaiting an accommodation place in an open care centre. Some have been released earlier, others later from the Hot Spots. In most of the cases minors are nowadays allowed to join special activities for them outside of the Hot Spot on a weekly basis in order to have some time out of detention. This period might decrease or increase according to how many minors are waiting for a place in open reception centres like you, and according to how many minors arrive in Greece.
By end of September 2016 there existed 1,047 places in open reception centres for minors in Greece of which some are transit / temporary shelters and there are around 1,567 minors on the waiting list for such a shelter. The camps are located on the islands and on the mainland in different cities. The reception centres for unaccompanied minors are not detention centres! You will be free. The reception centres on the islands are open “transit” centres so you will be free in general but not allowed to move from the island until a permanent shelter is found for you. These centres have been created so that you won’t need to stay too long in detention until a place for you is found.
Attention! Minors who are not accompanied have to be taken care of by the Greek authorities. If you are a documented unaccompanied minor the Public Prosecutor is your temporary guardian. He/she is responsible for you in place of your family, which is currently not with you. However, unfortunately most minors never have personal contact to their guardians, and the guardians rarely know each child they are responsible for. A few minors – mostly the ones younger than 14 – get a legal guardian by the NGO Metadrasi.
Attention! Minors cannot be deported and only under very strict examination of their best interest they can do the voluntary return.
Attention: If you have close family members in another EU-country, such as father and mother, elder brother or sister, first degree uncle or aunt, you can ask for family reunification. In order not to delay the long lasting procedures, report as soon as you arrive in Greece that you want to be reunited with your relative. In the Hot Spots, registration of asylum and family reunification claims of minors tend to be severely delayed, often for some months. Nevertheless, its worth beginning the procedure as soon as possible.
Attention! In general, unaccompanied minors can stay in the European country best for suited their interests and well being, EVEN if they had applied for asylum before elsewhere. Only unaccompanied minors who got recognized and received asylum cannot re-apply elsewhere. This means unaccompanied minors are not sent back to the EU country they first entered and got fingerprinted, or where they even applied for asylum.
Attention! If you turn 18 soon and want to apply for family reunification you have to hurry up and register properly your claim before your birthday. Seek immediate support by and NGO or private lawyer.
Attention! If you are younger than 15 you cannot apply for asylum, family reunification or relocation before getting a legal guardian!
Attention! The Police Note (white paper) you get as unaccompanied minor is valid until concluding the 18 th year of age. BUT as soon as you leave the open care centre, where you are assigned, the organisation running the place has to report you as missing. Practically, this means for you that during a police control you might get arrested and the authorities might detain you again until they find a place in an open care centre where they can send you. Unaccompanied minors arrested this way in Athens region are usually held in Amygdaleza special holding centre for minors in Athens. Currently unaccompanied minors detected in Athens area, i.e. in one of the bigger camps such as Malakassa, are not detained!
Attention: If you have been first registered as adult for whatever reason and you want to change your age later, you should know that this is sometimes very difficult if your (young) age is not very obvious at first sight. If you have not been age-assessed yet by Reception and Identification Service, you can ask them for an age-assessment based on medical and psycho-social methods. Nevertheless, often authorities will ask you to hand in identification documents of proof, such as identity cards certified by embassies or ministries of your country or even passports. In any case, it is much easier to report your real age from the beginning.
What happens if there are mistakes about my age, name or nationality on my deportation order?
Make sure that you declare them correctly (spelling mistakes or others) during the registration of your asylum claim before the “Asylum Office”.
The “white paper” (removal note) is not a proper identity document, so if you apply for asylum, you can carefully examine it and clearly state to the person registering your claim what the correct data is.